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Life Is... - Chapter 4
namichan89

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“I'd like to invite you two to dinner,” Misha says one evening in the middle of August, sitting on one of the bar stools in the kitchen while Jensen cooks. “How's next weekend?”

“Uh,” Jensen looks up from where he's dicing onions for the stew. “Good. I guess. Jare?”

“Yeah, we should be free. Dinner at your place, then?” Jared throws in from the living room.

Misha smiles. “Actually, I'd like to go to the Grill... restaurant... thing, what's it called? On the other end of town.”

“Ricky's BBQ of Awesome?” Jared suggests.

“Yeah! That. If you'd like,” Misha gestures to them, encompassing the kitchen and the living room.

“Sure!”

Jensen smiles and nods. “I'd like to. But what's the occasion?”

“My 41st birthday,” Misha deadpans.

“What? You're kidding, right?”

“Do I look like I'm kidding?” Misha retorts, and stares at Jensen with a stoic face when he turns around.

Jensen grins. “Yes, completely.”

“Damn, you know me too well,” Misha grouses without venom.

“So, 41, huh?” Jensen teases after a short pause that he used to cut the tomatoes. “I never would've guessed.”

“It's not like you're that much younger than I am,” Misha pouts.

Jensen grins and shrugs shrugs.

“Honestly, I don't care all that much. I just want to have a nice evening out with my friends.”

“So there are gonna be more people than us?” Jensen is torn between feeling disappointed and relieved.

“No, there aren't,” Misha replies. “I don't have many friends, you know. As one of the acquaintances I met after moving here put it after a couple months, my 'brand of crazy isn't something you just get used to'.”

“Didn't notice that, to be honest.”

“Well, I did tone it down after... that.”

Jensen rests a hand on his shoulder, then hands him a cutting board and a bowl of mushrooms.

“Don't,” Jensen just says quietly.

Misha doesn't respond, but the smile on his lips is warm and genuine when he picks up the bowl to clean the mushrooms.

***

They go out on Misha's birthday to said steakhouse. The food is good, and it's not even half as awkward as Jensen feared it would be, since they got a small round table, perfect for the three of them. Jared eats more steak than is good for his coronary vessels – and Jensen tells him so before handing over his plate with his own leftover steak.

“So we kinda didn't have an idea of what to get you for your birthday,” Jensen starts when they're – meaning, Jared is – done with dessert and sipping from a glass of wine. “But we remembered that you like bicycle tours, so...”

“Wanna go on a bicycle tour slash camping trip with us as long as it's still summer?” Jared asks, picking up Jensen's sentence.

Misha's curious face turns surprised, then delighted with a wide grin appearing on his lips. “I'd love to! And I'd finally have a reason to get my bike out of storage. It'll need some work but then we're good to go.”

Jensen chuckles. “Oh, we've got some work to do on ours, too,” he admits. “But at least we'll have a reason now.”

“Yeah. So, next weekend, how about you come over and we get our bikes ready? Then we can also start planning the trip. We thought it could be at some nice, local lake with a couple camping sites to cycle 'round during the weekend.”

The grin on Misha's lips doesn't leave his face for the rest of the evening.

When they're on their way home, or rather on their way towards the bus station, Misha stops about a block away. “I live down here, so--”

“Here?” Jared bursts out, surprised.

Jensen raises an eyebrow.

“Yeah,” Misha shrugs. “It's not much, just an apartment, you know. Affordable. But if you don't mind, I'd like to invite you for coffee. Or tea. Whatever you'd like, I mean, since it's late.”

Is Misha stammering? Jensen looks at him again and finds him fidgeting with his hands, a soft rosy touch to his cheeks, and he has a hard time holding back from pulling Misha into his arms to tell him it's alright. It's alright because Jensen's heart is beating too fast, too loud in his chest, too.

“Since we're already here, I guess it's about time we see your apartment. What do you say, Jensen?” Jared turns to him, nudges him in his side.

“Yes, I... um, we can do that.”

Jared grins at him. Of course the fucker is picking up on Jensen's mood.

Misha's apartment turns out to be a one-room living situation with a desk that also serves as a table for the tiny kitchenette. It's cramped and with three guys their size, sitting around the end of a messy desk isn't the most comfortable thing in the world.

But the coffee is good, Jensen has to admit, and the company makes up for everything else.

“No offense,” Jared chuckles, “But I know why you hang around our house as much as you do.”

“None taken, I know what this looks like,” Misha looks a bit sheepish as he fidgets with his spoon. “Still, if it becomes too often...”

“Don't be ridiculous,” Jensen smiles at him. “You're always welcome.”

Misha avoids his gaze in favor of staring into his cup of coffee. “You know, this apartment... I got it after my break-up and after moving here, because I got lucky. It's cheap and I can take the bus to work, but I hate the fact that I don't have a garden or any space to do anything around here. So I really don't like to impose on you, no matter how much I love your garden and the house and--”

He stops himself and Jensen screams inwardly.

What do you love? Being with us? Spending time with us? Do you love us? Tell me!

A flash of guilt hits him then, at the thought. He remembers Jeff, his soft smile, and how he'd first taken Jensen to that house, how they bought it and everything--

“Misha, seriously,” Jared smiles at him, so gentle and patient that Jensen wants to kiss him for derailing that train of thought. Trust Jared to find the right words in situations like these. “Don't be ridiculous. We wouldn't have known what to do with ourselves and the house if it wasn't for you in those past months. You truly are always welcome in our home.”

Misha looks like he might protest one final time, but in the end he huffs out a laugh. “Thank you.”

***

Their camping trip turns out to be an absolute success. The weather is perfect when they head out on Friday afternoon towards a lake near Austin, and it's evening by the time they reach their first camping site. Jared and Misha are already tanned and Jensen looks like a bull might attack him if he was placed in front of one, so they take turns applying sun lotion to his back, which is only damage control at this point.

“I never realized you have so many freckles,” Misha notes at some point during the second day on the road.

Jensen dismisses him with a hum.

“Don't tell me you don't like them?” Misha looks scandalized. “They're cute as hell.”

“Shut up, I'm not cute,” Jensen grumbles.

Jared laughs from where he's riding in front of them, giving an impressive view of his toned back and legs and ass and... well, he's distracting, to sum it up.

“He's right, though,” Jared teases with a look over his shoulder at Jensen.

“You shut up, too!”

At the end of each day, they swim in the lake to cool down, set up their tents, and the only thing wrong after sitting around a campfire until the stars come out is when Misha crawls into his tent, and Jared and Jensen into their own.

***

September turns into October, and Halloween is spent with Misha dressed as a fluffy blue monster handing out candy at Jared and Jensen's door. Christmas rolls around, and for the first time in almost a year, Jensen experiences the full set-back, the full power right hook in the face, of realizing that it will be their first Christmas without Jeff.

Misha hasn't anyone to spend the holidays with, either, so he ends up on the couch next to Jared and Jensen, wearing an ugly red and green sweater and trying to take their mind off things.

When that doesn't work to lift the gloomy mood, Misha surprises them both. “What did you usually do during the holidays?” he asks.

They both mull it over for a few moments before Jensen says, “Jeff would make his famous only-on-Christmas stuffed duck and we'd eat that for three days in a row.”

“And we'd watch Die Hard, because we're dorks like that,” Jared adds with a fond smile slowly spreading on his lips.

“So let's watch Die Hard,” Misha grins. “And then the Shrek Christmas Special. It's probably on TV somewhere.”

Jensen stares at him for a moment, then laughs. “Alright.”

“Hey, sorry that we're so moody today,” Jared apologizes to Misha.

“No, I get it,” Misha shrugs. “No need to apologize. Holidays are difficult, but we can make the best out of it, right? Jeff wouldn't want you to break with tradition, either. Right?”

“Right,” Jared agrees.

Jensen listens quietly and wonders where this will lead them, but quickly dismisses the thought as he starts the TV.

***

On New Year’s Eve, Misha is with them once again. He kind of didn't quite leave after Christmas.

Jensen kisses Jared when the ball drops, and surprises himself when he turns around, one hand on Misha's shoulder, and almost does the same to him. Misha just stares at him, lips slack and slightly parted, looking dazed and confused and so, so hopeful that it breaks Jensen's heart.

So to prevent the situation from becoming any more awkward, Jensen leans in and kisses Misha on the cheek. It's supposed to be manly and a bit gruff, but probably doesn't turn out that way and Jensen doesn't particularly care. Misha's stubble is soft and fuzzy under Jensen's lips, tingling where it meets his sensitive skin, and Misha smells of something earthy and fresh. Jensen likes it.

“Hey,” Jared protests from the sidelines, and Jensen is shocked at his own actions for a moment. Then he turns around to find Jared grinning at them. “No fair, I wanna do that, too.”

He slips past Jensen to sit on Misha's other side, cups his cheek, presses a hard kiss to the other, and grins at the still-baffled Misha, all within the next five seconds.

Jensen huffs, then starts laughing. He can't help it, he feels happy. When he sees Jared looking at Misha like that, something warm and fuzzy spreads in the pit of his stomach, pleasant and familiar like it's always been there. While he's still laughing, Jensen throws his right arm over Misha's shoulders and reaches out for Jared's neck with his left hand, pulling them both into an awkwardly cramped three-way hug on the sofa.

“I'm glad you're here,” Jensen admits to both of them, smiling.

“Me too,” Jared says.

“So, to a Happy New Year,” Misha grins and squeezes his arm tighter around Jensen's waist.

His heart feels so full, so filled with joy and gratefulness, that Jensen thinks it might burst any second now.

“Happy New Year,” he says instead, and nudges his forehead against Jared's and Misha's.

***

Misha notices.

By the end of January, a strange mood has spread through the Ackles-Padalecki household, and of course Misha notices. He spends far too much time in their presence to not notice.

“The anniversary of Jeff's death is coming up, right?” he asks over dinner, one Tuesday evening.

Jensen swallows his curry with rice and sighs. “Yeah. February 3rd.”

“Are you planning anything?”

“We'll visit the grave,” Jared says, curtly, and that's that.

Jensen can't help but feel off kilter those few days leading up to that particular first anniversary. Ironically, it's also the anniversary of when they met Misha. Well, technically a day later, but the connection is strong.

On February 3rd, it's not sunny like it was last year, and it's not overly warm considering the season like it was last year. There's no snow, either. Instead, the wind blows cold around the house, makes the blinds rattle and whistle, and clouds hang heavy and low in the sky. It's not raining and not clearing up, like the weather is as indifferent as Jensen feels when he gets up that day and goes through his morning routine.

It's a Wednesday, so they still have to go to work, and on the way home, Jensen picks up a bouquet that they pre-ordered for the occasion. When he unlocks the door of their house, he finds Jared in the kitchen, talking on the phone.

'I'm home,' Jensen mouths, walking up to him.

“Hey,” Jared smiles, a bit subdued, and leans in to kiss him hello. “No, he just came home,” he adds into the speaker.

Jensen points at the phone with a questioning eyebrow.

“Misha,” Jared answers, lips quirking into a lopsided little smile. Suddenly, his eyes shift away and the smile turns a bit wider. “Yeah, no, that's totally fine, we can do that. Uh, hey, we're about to head over to the graveyard, we could pick you up. No, of course not. Yeah, see you in a few.”

Jensen stares at him for a second after Jared hangs up. “Did I get that right, we're taking Misha with us when we go to visit Jeff's grave?”

“Sure, why not?” Jared shrugs. “We made plans for dinner, and he said he wouldn't mind waiting while we visit. It would be a detour for him and for us, otherwise.”

Jensen purses his lips and decides to go with the truth, as harsh as it may sound. “Don't you think it's inappropriate, bringing Misha to our deceased partner's grave? I mean, he didn't even know Jeff, all he did was plan his funeral.”

“Don't you think Misha has spent enough time with us to have a connection to Jeff by default? Plus, it's not like he'll bother us,” Jared replies with a scowl, crossing his arms in front of his chest.

“Still. We were the ones who loved him, that's different,” Jensen argues. “Also I'm really wondering why I need to explain this to you at all.”

“Jensen,” Jared sighs, dropping his head.

“No, don't 'Jensen' me here, I won't fall for it.”

Jared sighs again, slumping in on himself. He rubs the bridge of his nose with his thumb and index finger. “I thought you'd see the symbolism of bringing him.”

“What symbolism?” Jensen snaps, irritated. He has a feeling that he knows what Jared means, but he's feeling like being stubborn. Acknowledging would be... admitting defeat.

Jared hesitates. Instead of explaining right away, he searches Jensen's eyes for a give-away that Jensen will break, make this in any way easier for them.

Jensen doesn't back down. This is the day to honor Jeff's memory, not completely undermine it, and Jensen won't stand for it.

In the end, it's Jared who gives in. “The symbolism of bringing someone who's... how do I put this – who could probably be our new partner to 'meet' our former partner.”

“I get that,” Jensen admits with a frown. “Doesn't mean I think it's a good idea.”

“Why? What makes this so offensive to you?” Jared asks.

“Because. Today's about Jeff. Not about Misha or us. It's his day.”

Jared shakes his head, then sidesteps him to enter the hallway.

“What, you're just ignoring me now?”

“I think you're being stubborn and immature. So are we going to the graveyard or what?” Jared returns, grabbing his jacket from the coat rack.

“Oh, insults, that's what we've come to. Nice one, Jay,” Jensen spits, unfazed.

Jared rolls his eyes. “Now you're just being childish. Come on, Jensen.”

“Come on? Come on, what? Come on, forget about Jeff already?” Jensen is aware that he's raising his voice, but he's really pissed off by now.

“No! What do you think we're doing here?” Jared replies, starting to get irritated himself.

“We're arguing about the fact that you want to bring Misha to Jeff's grave when he's got no business being there.”

“And who decides if he's got any right to be there or not?” Jared challenges him, crosses his arms in front of his chest again, puffs his chest up.

Jensen is not intimidated. “You and me. And I say he doesn't.”

“So you decide and my opinion doesn't matter? It's like you're completely forgetting what happened these past months. Between us and Misha.”

“Don't worry, I haven't forgotten. But that's not something that should matter on a day like this,” Jensen states, as calm as he's able to.

“Says you,” Jared spits.

“Says me.”

“So it hasn’t occurred to you that this would be the perfect opportunity to tell Misha about the place he has in our lives right now? To show him what he means to us?”

“I--” Jensen breaks off, averts his eyes. And that's just the point, because he knows what Jared means. The grand gesture of bringing Misha, of 'introducing' him, of 'telling' Jeff. The recognition, the confession. Yet, it just doesn't sit right with him.

“Don't lie to me, Jensen. You know we're thinking the same thing about this, feeling the same towards Misha. This isn't a spur of the moment thing, this has been building for months. Don't tell me I'm freaking out for nothing here,” Jared huffs, looking at Jensen with begging puppy dog eyes, the kind that always make him weak and Jared knows that.

“But... don't you think it's like we're belittling Jeff's memory by substituting him so easily?” Jensen mumbles, fidgeting. He can't help but feel nervous.

“Who says anything about substituting?” Jared spreads his arms wide, a desperate gesture. “Listen to yourself, Jen, please. And what do you mean, 'so easily'? It's been over a year.”

“It's been a year, exactly. That's my entire point.”

“Didn't both you and Misha tell me at some point that mourning is something everybody does at their own pace and on their own conditions?”

“Yeah, but--” Jensen breaks off. It's infuriating, how much sense Jared makes, and Jensen just feels more and more insecure and unsettled.

“To be completely honest, I've been over Jeff's death. For a while, now. And I'm fine, I wanna move on. I don't want to be stuck in limbo forever.”

Jensen glares at him without holding back, because now he's irked. “Who says I want to be stuck in limbo? I'm just... this doesn't sit right me, what's so hard to believe about that?”

“I can't believe it because I can't see your reasoning!” Jared leans forward, punctuating almost each carefully pronounced word.

Jensen huffs and glares at the tiled floor for a moment of silence. It's always been like this with Jared – he's outgoing, passionate, impulsive in the good and the bad ways. He came into Jeff's and Jensen's relationship like a hurricane, swept them off their feet and left them with their world upside down. Different than Misha, so different.

“You wouldn't understand even if I explained,” Jensen sighs, then finally meets Jared's troubled eyes again.

His lips are pinched into a hard line when Jared answers, “Why wouldn't I?”

“You wouldn't know what it feels like,” Jensen admits quietly. “Because you were the new one.”

Jared splutters, obviously enraged. “What?”

“Well, you were the one that came into our relationship back then, so you don't know what that--”

“Oh, no, Jen, I understand perfectly,” Jared answers, monotone. “But I'm so angry right now, I don't even know what to say to you.”

Jensen stares at his blazing eyes, his defensive posture, his pinched lips, and waits, not budging an inch.

“So you think because you met Jeff first, you're the expert on polyamorous relationships? Is that it?”

“No, it's not,” Jensen winces, closes his eyes for a moment. “But it's different. Misha isn't Jeff and--”

“Exactly!” Jared yells now, right into Jensen's face, and he flinches again. “That's exactly my point! Don't you get it? They're different people, they have different effects on us, different roles in our lives, so care to explain to me again how we're 'substituting' for Jeff here?”

“Fine, you're right about that. Feel better now?” Jensen snaps.

Jared groans, covering his face in both hands. “Jensen, please. All I want to do is make you see... you know what, you're right,” he suddenly says, interrupting himself and looking at Jensen. “I was the new one. I know what it must feel like to be Misha, so, yeah, I try to make it easier for him to find his place with us. What's wrong with that?”

“I don't feel good doing this,” Jensen says again. “Not today.”

“So, what, it's too soon?”

“Maybe. I know that there isn't a set frame of time that you need to stick to when it comes to mourning, but... it doesn't feel like the right time, today, either.”

Jared huffs. “Fine. Then we won't take him if you're not okay with it. Just tell me, please, that you'll be willing to move on some day.”

“What do you mean?” Jensen shakes his head, confused. “Move on from Jeff? I think we're already well on our way there.”

“Yes, we are, and that's good and all, but... I meant move on, let someone new into our relationship. Because if that last year has shown us anything, it's that the two of us work better with a third party involved, and that's not something to be ashamed of.”

Jensen stares at him for a while, lets the words sink in. It's true that they've been fighting less often since they started hanging out with Misha. Jeff always had a calming effect on Jensen's impulsive cynicism and Jared's hot head, and Misha – consciously or not – does, too. He's been good for them, there's no denying that.

“No, it isn't,” Jensen eventually admits, feeling the fight drain out of him, leaving him exhausted and winded. “Look, can we just... visit Jeff now?”

Jared hesitates, but then he asks. “So, should we pick up Misha afterwards?”

Jensen bites his lip and meets Jared's soft, gentle eyes. He's not in a fighting mood anymore, either, and it's like the waves have settled between them. So Jensen steps closer, hugs Jared and rests his chin on his shoulder. It's good to feel Jared's warmth, the familiar shape of his bones and muscles and skin underneath Jensen's own. It's home and it's everything he needs right now.

“We can pick him up on the way,” Jensen gives in. “He can go do... something else while we're at the graveyard. You said he won't mind waiting.”

“No, he won't. I guess he won't mind waiting in more ways than one,” Jared mumbles into Jensen's ear.

Jensen feels the pressure lift from his shoulders simultaneously to Jared's arms wrapping around his waist.

“We'll be okay,” Jared says, and it sounds like a promise.

With an amused snort, Jensen blows the strands of Jared's hair that are tickling his nose away. “Yeah, we will.”

***

As promised, Misha waits patiently in the car, playing around on his phone, while Jared grabs the flowers and Jensen's hand and they walk down to the white headstone with Jeff's name on it.

“Heya, Jeff,” Jared says softly when he bends to lay down the bouquet, smiling softly.

Jensen stands behind him, and they say their prayers in silence.

I'm sorry, is the first thing that hits Jensen's mind. I'm sorry, Jeff. I can't help it. But I keep hurting Jared without meaning to. And I keep thinking about a guy who's not you, and I feel bad for it. I don't know what to do, here. I wish I had your advice, I wish I could talk to you. I know it won't happen. Please tell me if it's alright.

I miss you so much.

The headstone doesn't provide him with answers. Of course not.

***

They have dinner together afterwards, and while Jared and Jensen are rather quiet, Misha keeps up the conversation by himself, talking about everything and nothing, pleasant chatter that keeps the atmosphere light. He's good like that.

Jensen realizes with astonishing clarity that Misha is the glue that keeps them together – has been for a while now. It's so much easier with him around. He's considerate and funny and he's everything they need.

Misha grins at Jared, at some kind of joke that he just made and Jared snorted out a laugh at, and Jensen feels like the biggest jerk on the face of the earth.

He knew, and he just blew the perfect opportunity to tell Misha.

Jensen's heart makes a painful thump in his chest, and he can't breathe for a second.

It's not like they didn't know what they felt for Misha. They both do, very clearly. Very openly, too, if Jared's running commentary during their increasingly recovering sex life is anything to go by.

Misha seems to sense that something is going on with Jensen and turns to him. The power of his expressive, worried blue eyes hits Jensen full force, dead on, like a punch to the gut. His heart jumps again, this time to a higher pace, and his skin feels too tight.

Feeling helpless and caught off guard makes Jensen look away and retreat to familiar waters – Jared. But Jared looks at him like he knows exactly what's going on inside Jensen's head right now, with a guarded but hopeful smile, and nudges Jensen's knee under the table.

“Jensen? Is everything alright?” Misha's voice eventually filters through the fog of emotions that clouds Jensen's mind.

“Huh? Um, yeah. I guess,” Jensen stutters, feeling even more flustered when he's hit again by the full force of Misha's eyes, now accompanied by a gentle smile. “Misha--” he starts, but then bites the inside of his cheek.

Not here, not now.

“Yeah? What is it?” Misha asks.

Jensen shakes his head, cursing himself for being a coward. “Nothing, I was just... spacing out.”

The look Jared gives him in return hits Jensen straight in the heart. Hurt, hope, realization. Begging. Jensen shakes his head imperceptibly.

Not here, not now.

Jared's telepathic powers when it comes to Jensen seem to work, because he drops it.

***

“You were right,” Jensen admits it, out loud, that night in bed.

“I know,” Jared mumbles into his ear, tightening his arms around Jensen's middle. “So what do we do?”

“You mean, how do we tell him?”

“Yeah.”

“Don't you think he already knows?”

“Even if he does,” Jared sighs, then drops a gentle kiss to Jensen's neck, right underneath his ear. “We need to spell it out, make it perfectly clear. He deserves to know his standing in our relationship.”

“He deserves so much more than that,” Jensen says. “He's been keeping us sane and fixing us for months now. I doubt he knew what this would lead to, but... this whole process of how he found his way to us, isn't it kind of telling? And I didn't realize just how much I fell in love with him until earlier today.”

“I was aware for a while now,” Jared confesses. “I'm also pretty sure that he's in love with us, but what if we misinterpreted things?”

“We didn't misinterpret this. Did you see how he looked at me on New Year's Eve? When I almost kissed him?”

Jared laughs into his neck. “So you did, in fact, almost kiss him. I wasn't sure.”

“Yeah, I kind of surprised myself,” Jensen huffs. “I guess that was a clue.”

“My first clue was... I guess back when we visited Misha's apartment. He was so nervous after that birthday-dinner-that-totally-wasn't-a-date. And so off kilter when he thought he was imposing on us. It was adorable, I just wanted to cuddle him and tell him it was alright.”

Jensen chuckles. “Now that you mention it, it was kind of a date, wasn't it?”

“Pretty much. And a sweet one at that.”

Jensen toys with the blanket, runs his fingers over it and rubs the fabric against his knuckles. “I wonder what it'll be like, with him.”

“The sex?” Jared asks immediately, and Jensen feels his face flush hot.

“That too, but no, actually. I was thinking more in terms of like, our morning routine and do I have to give up sleeping on your lap on the sofa because I'm not the only one occupying you anymore?” Jensen ponders out loud.

Jared laughs at that. “That's your spot, don't worry. But it's a bit presumptuous, don't you think? To count on him saying yes to a relationship with us. What do we do if he only fell in love with one of us? Or if he just wants to be friends?”

“Then we'll deal with it. We're still finding our way in living in a relationship with just the two of us, but we'll manage. I'm pretty sure about that after a year. Just because we function better as a threesome doesn't mean we don't as a twosome.”

Jared kisses Jensen's temple at that, lips curled into a smile. “Yeah. Plus, I mean. I love you. More than anything in the world, and that is never going to change,” he continues, his voice sure and firm. “I can't imagine living without you.”

“Now you're just being sappy,” Jensen rolls his eyes, but leans over to kiss Jared with a fond smile tugging at his lips. “Go to sleep. Love you, too.”

Jared laughs. “Fine. Sleep tight.”

“You too. And don't worry. He'll say yes.” Jensen feels a surge of heat shoot through his veins at the statement. Excitement, curiosity, hope. Just a little bit of guilt.

***

They plan out everything – a big, fancy dinner with four courses for Misha, the music to go with it, the way they would tell him, whether they would go to second base or not on their first official date.

It all goes differently than planned, of course it does.

When Misha arrives, he's not his usual self. Far more subdued, with his face so pale that Jensen finds himself worrying Misha might fall off his chair any minute now.

Then Misha shoves his plate abruptly towards Jared. “Here, you can finish it. The meatloaf is delicious, but I'm not feeling well and I-- excuse me,” he says, jumps up and hurries towards the bathroom.

“So much for our confession, huh?” Jensen sighs quietly, only for Jared to hear, who's currently busy loading up his plate with Misha's share.

“We have all the time in the world,” Jared shrugs, but winces. “Poor Misha.”

“At least we get to pamper him a bit, now,” Jensen smiles and gets to his feet as soon as Misha re-enters the room.

They have him lie down in the bed in Jensen's room, which is barely in use these days, equipped with a bucket and some Kleenex.

“I'm so sorry for ruining your evening,” Misha apologizes, his voice rough and shaken. “After you went through all the trouble of cooking me dinner.”

“Don't worry about it,” Jensen finds himself sitting on the mattress beside Misha with a smile, then runs his hand through Misha's hair on impulse, ruffles it affectionately. “Get better soon.”

“Do you want some tea?” Jared asks him, and Misha confirms.

They take turns looking after him, but Misha falls asleep soon and only wakes up when Jensen pokes his head through the door around midnight.

“I should go home,” Misha sits up in bed, looking drowsy and sleep-addled. Also, adorable.

“No,” Jensen protests in a way that doesn't allow refusal. “You stay right where you are for the night. Here, I brought you some clothes to sleep in.”

“But it's a work day tomorrow and I already feel better--”

“Mish, it's midnight. Get some rest,” Jensen orders, gentle but firm.

Misha stares at him for a few moments before he nods and looks down at the old t-shirt and sweat pants that he accepts from Jensen. “Okay.”

“Good night,” Jensen says on the exhale, wanting nothing more than to lean down and kiss Misha. As always, he restrains himself.

“Night, Jen,” Misha replies with a soft smile. “Promise me there's some leftover meatloaf for me tomorrow?”

“Promise,” Jensen grins.

***

They dance around the subject for a while. Jensen feels like they don't want to jinx it again and are just waiting for the perfect moment, which, like always, just won't show up.

Every time Jensen thinks that they've reached a point where he's allowed to say, 'Hey, Misha, do you want to be our partner?' it doesn't feel right. Because they're busy laughing over one of Jared's dumb jokes and Misha's subsequent deadpan reply while stuffing their faces with pizza, because Jared's half asleep and drooling on Misha's shoulder and Jensen needs him to be awake to do this, or because Misha turns away immediately, as if he's sensing that there's a line, somewhere, here, that is taunting Jensen to be crossed.

Jensen is, frankly, two seconds away from going insane.

In the end, Jensen's birthday rolls around without anything having changed.

Well, not officially.

The truth is that both Jared and Jensen have let their guard down around Misha more and more. It feels right and it's so easy that Jensen doesn't even understand why it took them this long to do it. Then again, ever since he and Jared had decided on somehow telling Misha, there's a calm sort of expectant nervousness simmering between them, something that makes Jensen beyond excited.

So, when Jensen falls asleep on the couch, he doesn't care anymore if his head is in Jared's lap and his feet on Misha's. When goes in for a hug, Jared is just as affectionate with Misha as he is with Jensen – the only thing missing would be a kiss. When they're out for dinner, they don't even pretend to not see it as a date any more – and speaking of, their dates start to get increasingly romantic, and very much intentionally so. Misha seems to savor it all, takes it in like a sponge, and returns all of their gestures. Anyone who saw them would think of them as boyfriends, so it's really just that one last confession that's still missing to make things perfect.

On Jensen's birthday, they end up on the couch with an open bottle of white wine after a nice three-course meal at their favorite steakhouse. How this has become a thing, Jensen doesn't know, but he feels warm and mellow, this side of perfectly buzzed without being drunk, and just really, really comfortable.

“The only thing missing today is chocolate cake,” Jared muses with a pleased smile. “But I guess the steak and tartufo made up for it.”

“Chocolate cake?” Misha prompts with a look at Jared sitting to his left and Jensen sitting to his right.

Jensen smiles at the memory. “Jeff would make me chocolate cake for my birthday, ever since we started dating. He made one for one of our early dates and he really had that recipe down, so I described it as 'orgasm-inducing' which, in turn, made him so happy that he baked that cake a couple times. Until I told him that he better save it for special events or I'd gain some weight soon.”

“'Orgasm-inducing' is the perfect description for that cake,” Jared chuckles. “We still have the recipe, but neither of us...” Jared breaks off, shakes his head.

“You don't dare touch it with a five foot pole because it'd never be the way Jeff made it,” Misha finishes the sentence for him, a tiny smile tugging at his lips.

“Yeah,” Jared admits quietly, swirling the wine in his glass, then taking a big sip.

Misha hums, pondering. After a few moments, he says, “Why don't you try doing it your way? Sure, it's still Jeff's chocolate cake recipe, but you can bake it like you want to. Even if it turns out awesome, it won't mean you're replacing Jeff – it'll just mean you're honoring his memory. No one else will be able to bake that cake like he did, and that's alright, but it's your choice what you want to do with the recipe. Do you want it to be forgotten?”

Are we still talking about chocolate cake? Jensen almost asks, but doesn't. Misha seems a bit different than usual, like he's both stressed out and on tenterhooks but somehow happy about it.

When Jensen realizes that Misha is working himself up to ask something, Misha has already opened his mouth, speaking rushed and with an uncertain smile. “Guys, this might seem like it comes out of the blue, but I gotta ask. It's been burning under my skin for a while now. Will there... are you ever planning on starting a threesome relationship again?”

Jared gasps in surprise and searches for Jensen's eyes immediately.

This is it, this is their opportunity, and they both know it.

Jensen feels how a smile spreads on his lips, stretching them into a large grin, and he nudges Misha with his elbow before looking into his deep blue eyes. Eyes that look up at him with carefully hidden hope and all the things he didn't say. “Who knows, if the right guy comes along, I can see us doing that.”

“Provided you both fall in love with him,” Misha smiles lopsided and a bit self-depreciatingly. “Which has to be one hell of a coincidence.”

“Hm, you see, Jared and I have very similar taste when it comes to men,” Jensen barely refrains from winking.

“Is that so?” Misha lifts his chin a little higher, meeting Jensen at eye level, while still looking so open, so vulnerable.

Jensen wants to cuddle him into eternity. Among other things.

“Yeah,” Jared agrees from his other side, and Jensen is finally not the sole focus of Misha's intense eyes, which is both disappointing and a quick relief. “You see, we like the funny ones. The ones that call us out on our bullshit and who're quick with a witty reply. Dark hair and beard preferred, and if we don't have to stoop down too much to kiss him, that's an advantage.”

“We like guys who speak their mind and keep us sane when we annoy each other,” Jensen adds, and Misha turns towards him again, his lips parted as he waits for Jensen to continue. “And who makes the effort to understand us, even when we talk about our former relationship and our former partner.”

“Jeff sure left a hole in our lives, and we do want to fill it again,” Jared says. “But I think we needed to see that there won't ever be someone to fill that hole perfectly. Instead, we need someone who can carve their own opening between us, to fill it out to his content, and make us take over the parts that he cannot substitute.”

Misha starts to laugh under his breath, meets Jensen's eyes, then Jared's. “Didn't I just tell you? It's like with the chocolate cake. It doesn't need to be replaced by something equal. It's enough to work with what you have, and do the best you can, to make something that makes you happy.”

“And I'm pretty sure that Jeff would agree,” Jensen grins, then sets his glass of wine aside, mirroring Jared who just did the same.

“You know,” Misha says without looking up from his glass that he's spinning in his hands. “Just say the word, whenever you guys are ready.”

Jared laughs, a relieved, free laugh straight from his belly. He's so happy it's contagious, and Jensen feels his own heart skipping a beat or three, his stomach twisting with excitement in the most positive way.

“Which word?” Jensen teases Misha, nudging him again just to make some body contact.

“Huh?”

“Which word do we need to say? Or can we forgo that in favor of just doing what we've been wanting to do for months?” Jensen smirks, watches in delight as Misha's eyes get bigger by the second.

“The latter sounds good to me, too,” Misha says overly formal, and when he puts his glass down on the coffee table, his hand is shaking.

“Good,” Jensen returns.

Jared shuffles closer until his knee bumps against Misha's. His eyes find Jensen's, again, and they can't stop grinning at each other as they're leaning in, wrapping their arms around Misha between them. Misha whimpers, a sound that probably wasn't supposed to come out at all, and leans into them, an arm sneaking around Jensen's waist and the other most likely doing the same to Jared.

It's all a big mess of limbs, and eventually, Jensen leans back to find Jared nodding at him, the go-ahead signal to encourage him to seal the deal. Misha looks shaken but happy when Jensen turns to him.

He raises his hand, ever so slowly, so Misha has all the time in the world to protest. He doesn't, though, so Jensen cups his cheek, tips his chin up, then leans down to kiss him. At first, it's unsure and a bit unsteady. Jensen knows how Jared kisses, knows it from the heart and deep in his bones, but Misha is, of course, completely unknown ground.

Jensen doesn't get much time to explore, because Jared's hand wraps around his neck, warm and demanding and a bit possessive.

He leans back from Misha's soft, slightly chapped lips and lets Jared take his spot, watches in awe as Misha tilts his head just so to make the angle perfect, as Jared grins into the kiss, feels the hand on his neck tighten. He's so intensely happy watching this scene unfold in front of him, feels excitement rush through his veins at seeing the other two so happy.

When Jared retreats, Misha drops against the back rest of the couch, his hands never leaving Jared's and Jensen's sides. “I didn't dare hope, you know,” he beams.

“We thought we were being obvious,” Jensen says in amusement, letting one hand skim over Misha's flat stomach, finally touching in a way he wasn't allowed to for much too long.

Jared chuckles, then admits, “We wanted to tell you for a while now, and didn't know how. Or when. The perfect opportunity just wouldn't come around.”

“So you take me out on romantic trips and make me ache with how much I want to be with you,” Misha shakes his head in disapproval, but grins. “Sadists.”

“Sorry,” Jensen apologizes. He leans in once more and buries his head against Misha's neck, pressing soft kisses to the tender skin, wallowing in the fact that Misha's arm tightens around him and Jared's weight and warmth presses in from Misha's other side.

Jensen hears kissing sounds again and feels Misha's throat working under him, so he looks up to find Jared going at it yet again and smiles.

“Jay,” he says after another couple of seconds. “Me too.”

So Jared breaks the kiss with a grin and apologetic peck to Misha's lips. When Jensen lifts up, Jared leans back to give him some space, but Jensen quickly corrects that notion.

“No, come here,” he says, tugging at Jared's shoulder.

Jared seems confused, but when Jensen kisses him, hard, the way he knows Jared loves, it also seems to become clear to Jared.

A blissful sigh from Misha makes them look at him.

“Thanks for waiting for the perfect opportunity,” Misha smiles, ever so gentle. “And thanks for giving me a spot in your life.”

Jensen laughs at that. “Ah, no. You made that spot yours, you molded it so you fit into it perfectly. You deserve it.”

***

After two weeks of constantly hanging out at their house, Jensen drops the spare key in Misha's palm.

After another week, Misha brings a trunk full of clothes.

That's also when Misha sleeps in the big bed in the master bedroom with them for the first time.

After two months, Jared asks if Misha wants to move in, since he's basically living with them already, anyway.

That's why they all team up one weekend to empty Misha's apartment.

Two weeks later, they tell Misha about the fight they had over the visit to Jeff's grave. About how Jeff would be replaced and forgotten.

“Hey, I have a question for you two.”

They nod in unison at Misha, who stands in front of them in the kitchen, both hands set on his hips.

“What would Jeff have said if you'd have told him?”

“Told him what? About the fight or...?” Jensen asks.

“No, about me. Like, hey Jeff, there's this guy we kind of fell in love with so we want to be with him, what would he have said?”

Jensen looks at Jared, a bit irritated and a lot confused, and sees his own feelings reflected in his face. That is, until Jared starts to grin. “Oh, I get it,” he laughs. “He'd tell us to not fight about something like this, that we should get our heads out of our asses. And to not pass up on a good thing when it's right in front of us.”

“Yeah,” Jensen starts to see him, too, standing there much like Misha is now, taking none of their bullshit and holding his own. “He totally would.”

“So?” Misha prompts, a smirk curling his lips. “Do I need to smash your heads together for him, or...”

“No need,” Jensen rebuffs him, but steps up to crowd Misha against the breakfast bar to kiss him. “You're amazing.”

“What? Because I know and understand you?”

“Because you're perfect for us,” Jensen kisses him hard, then, all the while running his hands over Misha's torso, slipping under his shirt, around his waist and up his back, caressing every square inch of skin he can reach, “Because you never tried to replace him, but remind us why we loved him. Which, in turn, makes it so very obvious why we love you.”

Misha arches into his body, their cocks rubbing together through their pants. “You do?” he asks, breathless and gasping.

“Isn't it obvious?” Jensen chuckles, places another kiss on his lips. “I do. Jared does, too.”

“Say it again,” Misha moans, “Please.”

“I love you,” Jensen grins against his lips.

Misha laughs, low in his throat.

“And I love you, too,” Jared says, reaching out to cup Misha's face in his palm.

Meanwhile, Jensen grabs for Misha's cock through his jeans, rolls his hand over it, feels how it fills out a nice bulge.

Misha groans.

“Okay, yeah, guys, I think we better take this to the bedroom,” Jared suggests, sliding up behind Jensen to grind his crotch into Jensen's ass and to kiss Misha over Jensen's shoulder. “What do you say?”

Jensen hums, then shakes his head. “Won't make it,” he winks at Jared before he drops to his knees in front of Misha, working his pants open with deft fingers. Just enough to get his boxers down and his dick out so Jensen can slide it into his mouth and down his throat in one swift move.

“Jay,” Misha groans again, steadying himself by grabbing for purchase on the breakfast bar behind him.

And that's another thing, with the nicknames.

Jeff was always the only one to call Jensen 'Jen'. Sometimes, Jared imitated him, but it kind of never stuck. Misha had caught on to the fact that the nickname was a sensitive point after Jeff's death pretty soon. Not knowing any better, he'd started calling Jensen 'Jay', and Jared became 'Jare'. Which was fine with Jensen, but sometimes they still got it wrong – who was called when Misha said 'Jay'.

This time, though, Jensen knows that he's being addressed, so he looks up at Misha and sucks just a bit harder on the tip of his cock.

“He's so pretty like this, isn't he?” Jared grins at Misha, leans against the breakfast bar beside him.

Without looking, Jensen reaches out to smack his thigh. Not too hard, just to remind him.

“And feisty,” Misha adds, amused.

Jensen glares at him, but proceeds to take him fully into his mouth until the tip of Misha's dick hits the back of his throat. When he swallows around it, Misha tips his head back with a sigh.

“Fuck,” he mumbles, and Jensen feels a hand running through the strands of his hair. It's Misha, judged by the gentleness and size – Jared's hands are bigger, surer in the way they move.

They're still trying out what they like, which isn't too surprising four months into a relationship.

It's nice, having three people again, although it couldn't be more different from before, with Jeff. Not better or worse, just different. New, exciting, anyway. Jensen loves it, loves to explore every little detail about Misha, loves when Jared gives Misha hints of what he should do to Jensen to make him come in two seconds flat. Jared gives the information willingly, and hearing him share such intimate moments with Misha makes Jensen feel ridiculously turned on.

The first night they spent together, it had been all about Misha, about the things he liked, and they ended up making him come two times before taking care of themselves together.

Where Jared – as the youngest and the one who came into Jeff's and Jensen's relationship – was usually very passive and liked it when Jeff told him what to do, he had now learned to take matters into his hands more often. Jensen had always been reversible and topped as often as he bottomed, but with Misha, he finds himself longing for control, he finds himself wanting to show off, wanting to have Misha and Jared follow his prompts. Not like Misha accepts it just like that – he's the one who secretly has them both wrapped around his little finger and that's okay, too.

So when Misha pushes at Jensen's shoulder, shaking under his hands, Jensen lets off and grins up at him.

Misha's mouth is hanging open and kiss-swollen, thanks to Jared, who looks incredibly pleased.

“Now we can go to the bedroom,” Jensen smiles at them, getting to his feet and adjusting his pants while he does. Then he turns around and leads the way, shedding his clothes as he walks. First off is his plaid shirt, which lands on the handrail in the staircase, then his undershirt, which flutters and ends up on the side of the hallway. His jeans follow when he's already one step inside the bedroom and drop to the floor beside the bed.

When Misha and Jared stumble into their bedroom, Jensen is already naked and stroking his cock, laying spread-eagled in the middle of the mattress.

“Fuck,” Misha mumbles under his breath, then points at Jared with a warning, playful glare, “Don't you dare say that's the general idea.”

“But it is,” Jared grins, stepping towards Misha to strip his clothes off quickly and efficiently.

Misha returns the favor, a bit more clumsy and impaired by the fact that Jared is taller than him and distracting him by peppering kisses over his mouth, his face, his neck. From his vantage point on the bed, Jensen watches them, savors seeing them like this – kissing, stroking, caressing each other, Jared's big hands cupping Misha's ass and squeezing it before lifting him up and carrying him those few steps to the bed. Misha's legs uncurling reluctantly from Jared's hips even when he's already on his back beside Jensen. Jared grinding his hips into Misha's, their dicks rubbing together between their bellies as they move against each other. Jared burying his head in the crook of Misha's neck, kissing, biting, making Misha screw his beautiful blue eyes shut.

Jensen moans at the delicious sight, which is when Jared pulls off, smiles at Misha, then leans over to kiss Jensen. It's quick and affectionate, with a smile against Jensen's lips, before Jared retreats only to lick and kiss his way down Misha's body. His lips dance over Misha's nipples, down his abs and treasure trail, until they meet the same patch of hair that Jensen had his nose buried in not five minutes ago. With a wink at Jensen and a grin at Misha, Jared leans down to suck Misha down, bopping his head a few times.

In the meantime, Jensen has reached for Misha's hand and squeezes it, leans over to kiss his shoulder and inhale his scent, the one of sandalwood and cypress and Misha, the one he loves so much.

Which is why Jared catches him completely off guard when in the middle of Jensen slipping his tongue into Misha's mouth, he starts sucking Jensen off. Jensen moans into Misha's mouth, jerking his hips upwards in surprise, and Misha grins against his lips, curls his hand around Jensen's neck to deepen their kiss. Without missing a beat, Jared goes to town like only he knows how to, licking over the head of Jensen's cock, sucking him down hard and fast, taking him deep into his mouth.

There's no holding back, no dragging this out, and Jensen knows what it means if Jared is like this – he wouldn't let off if Jensen begged him to right now. When his orgasm washes over Jensen, it's as expected as it is unexpectedly intense, sweeping him off his feet and leaving him with sparkling spots in his vision, blurry sight and shaking legs. The kind of orgasm that'll make his stomach clench when he thinks about it even hours later.

“Jeez, Jare,” Jensen finds himself croaking out, his voice shot to hell and hoarse as he pulls Jared up, kisses him to taste his own come on Jared's tongue.

Jared laughs, then nudges his way in-between Jensen and Misha, laying on his side facing Misha. “I can't wait until I can do the same to you,” he whispers into Misha's ear, and Jensen feels himself shudder at the words, spoken so tenderly and lovingly, but also with an urgency that leaves him needy and curious.

They're still in that first period, sitting out the first six months before they can get tested with secure results. Misha has been donating blood regularly, as has Jared, so there's really no need to worry, but it's something they decided for themselves – after the first half year of being exclusive, they'd go get tested together. Until then, it's condoms for Misha.

“Mish, you wanna fuck him?” Jensen prompts without needing to make eye contact. “He's been so good to us, I think he deserves it.”

“Yeah, I think so, too,” Misha agrees with a smile in his voice.

With the sound of Jared and Misha kissing in his ear, Jensen grabs the bottle of lube and a condom from the bedside table. Jared slings his leg over Misha's hip, allowing Jensen to roll the condom down Misha's cock and slick it up with lube, then use the excess lube to prepare Jared with practiced strokes of two lubed fingers up his ass.

“I'm ready, do it,” Jared gasps after practically no time, but Jensen chuckles and places a kiss on his neck.

“I decide when you're ready,” Jensen teases with a grin. “So if I want to--”

“Jay,” Misha interrupts him with a guttural sigh, the most delicious plea Jensen could've asked for. “I need--”

And well, Jensen isn't good at declining Misha's pleas just yet. “Yeah, okay.”

He retrieves his fingers and instead nudges Jared to roll onto his back, watches as Misha lines himself up with Jared's ass, as the head slips right into the tight ring of muscle, as Jared arches his back and moans, as Misha rolls his hips into him and buries his head in Jared's chest.

They're too entangled in each other so Jensen can't do much more than wipe his fingers on a tissue and watch as Misha fucks Jared, slow and sensual, taking all the time in the world. They're both smiling against each other's mouths, and Jensen feels his heart burst with happiness just looking at them.

It takes them some rutting against each other – and Jensen is too smitten by watching the muscles in Misha's back working, tensing, relaxing, repeat at this point to notice both their breaths speeding up – until Jared hits his climax with a soft whimper, coming against his stomach, spunk dripping from Misha's chest, too. He melts into the mattress afterwards, hips jerking with the aftershocks, lets Misha fuck into him a couple more times, moans with how oversensitive he is, but then Misha tenses and groans, lips locked against Jared's throat, and Jensen sees his hips snapping forward and his cock twitching where it's buried deep inside Jared.

They lie together in a breathless heap of limbs, panting, grinning, and Jensen runs his hand through Misha's hair.

They untangle themselves slowly, falling down on the mattress to catch their breath. Jensen gets up to fetch a washcloth and clean towel.

Afterwards, Jared pulls him down between them, and all three of them huddle together for warmth, Misha tugging the blanket over them.

“I love you,” he says solemnly.

“Me too,” Jared and Jensen answer in unison.

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